Taiwan accuses China of 'sabre rattling' as naval drill begins

Taiwanese fighter jets Image copyright AFP
Image caption Taiwan started its own drill (pictured) on Tuesday

China is conducting live-fire military exercises in the Taiwan Strait amid growing tension in the region.

The one-day drill follows Chinese warnings against independence moves by the self-governing island. Taiwan began a similar exercise earlier this week.

Officials in Taipei accused Beijing of "sabre rattling" and played down the significance of the exercises, pointing out that they take place regularly.

China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to invade.

Relations with the mainland have grown more tense since Taiwan elected a pro-independence president in 2016.

Taiwan's defence ministry responded to the exercise by accusing Beijing of exaggerating its importance to intimidate the island.

"That's why we say it's verbal intimidation and sabre rattling," a spokesman said.

A Chinese official made it clear the military drill was meant to warn Taiwan against moving towards independence.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office director Liu Jieyi said on Monday that the drill was "to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our motherland".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption China said it will thwart any Taiwanese separatist attempts

As recently as March, Chinese President Xi Jinping took aim at Taiwanese independence aspirations, saying "total unity" was the "collective hope of all Chinese people" and any attempts to divide it were "doomed to fail".

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is currently in Swaziland, one of the island's few remaining diplomatic allies.

Most countries around the globe do not recognise Taiwan as a country and China has put pressure on those few that do to change their alliance to Beijing.

The split between Taiwan and China dates back to 1949 when at the end of the Chinese civil war, the defeated nationalists fled to the island, while the communists took control of the mainland.

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